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Genomic prediction unifies animal and plant breeding programs to form platforms for biological discovery


The rate of annual yield increases for major staple crops must more than double relative to current levels in order to feed a predicted global population of 9 billion by 2050. Controlled hybridization and selective breeding have been used for centuries to adapt plant and animal species for human use. However, achieving higher, sustainable rates of improvement in yields in various species will require renewed genetic interventions and dramatic improvement of agricultural practices. Genomic prediction of breeding values has the potential to improve selection, reduce costs and provide a platform that unifies breeding approaches, biological discovery, and tools and methods. Here we compare and contrast some animal and plant breeding approaches to make a case for bringing the two together through the application of genomic selection. We propose a strategy for the use of genomic selection as a unifying approach to deliver innovative 'step changes' in the rate of genetic gain at scale.

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Figure 1
Figure 2: Comparison of animal and plant breeding approaches.
Figure 3: A variant of the two-part breeding program design for plant breeding.
Figure 4: Framework for combining approaches.

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The Implementing Genomic Selection in CGIAR Breeding Programs Workshop was funded by the CGIAR Consortium and the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC); it was held at the CGIAR Consortium offices in Montpellier, France.

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Correspondence to Wayne Powell or Wayne Powell.

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Hickey, J., Chiurugwi, T., Mackay, I. et al. Genomic prediction unifies animal and plant breeding programs to form platforms for biological discovery. Nat Genet 49, 1297–1303 (2017).

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